"On the front burner", "on the back burner", who started these?

I meant to put this in the "First Cool Character on TV" thread because a fan of Kookie site mentioned that Kookie was responsible for popularizing the phrase.
Was it essentially unknown before beat times?
Was it a beatnik phrase?
Was Kookie the main vector to the mainstream?
Richard Maurer To reply, remove half
Sunnyvale, California of a homonym of a synonym for also.
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"On the front burner", "on the back burner", who started these? I meant to put this in the "First Cool ... fan of Kookie site mentioned that Kookie was responsible for popularizing the phrase. Was it essentially unknown before beat times?

Apparently so. That is, not recorded in print until 1963.
Was it a beatnik phrase?

No, why? Were there beatniks in the show? I don't associate them with cooking on woodstoves, anyway.
Was Kookie the main vector to the mainstream?

Not mentioned by name in RHHDAS.
RHHDAS only has citations for this metaphorical use from 1963 on. MWll agrees. Since "77 Sunset Strip" ran from 1958 to 1964, that's right within that range.
I don't know anything about the show. Was Kookie a source of country-boy lore or something? Cooking on woodstoves is much more common in the country.
I can't find when "burner" started to be used for that part of a cookstove.
Just in case anyone is puzzled: in a woodburning cookstove (and probably a coal-burning one, too) the idea was that the back of the cooking surface was cooler, so you'd push pots there as a way of turning the heat down, and bring them up front to make them boil faster. Nowadays we can just turn a knob to change the heat.

Best Donna Richoux
"On the front burner", "on the back burner", who started these? I meant to put this in the "First Cool ... fan of Kookie site mentioned that Kookie was responsible for popularizing the phrase. Was it essentially unknown before beat times?

I'm not even familiar with any "on the front burner" expression, but ProQuest reveals that in 1944 "cooking on the front burner" was listed, along with "cooking with gas", in an article on teenage slang, and was defined as "Doin' all right; on the beam; okay."
I find an earlier usage of "cooking on the front burner", in a Washington Post column by Maury Povich's father Shirley from 1942:

Picturesque reporting: Lieut. Al Hailey, former Post boxing writer now with the United States Army Air Force, calbes from somewhere in the Pacific, "Hello, am now cooking on the front burner"...

The earliest usage of "on the back burner" I could find was from 1949 (Washington Post):
hope that tax relief for business is on the back burner at Washington
Was it a beatnik phrase? Was Kookie the main vector to the mainstream?

Doesn't look that way. It probably wasn't much older than the '40s. I wonder whether "something being on the back burner" is a direct consequence of "cooking on the front burner".
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Just in case anyone is puzzled: in a woodburning cookstove (and probably a coal-burning one, too) the idea was that ... bring them up front to make them boil faster. Nowadays we can just turn a knob to change the heat.

It never occurred to me that it might be a reference to wood or coal-burning stoves. My mother's gas cooker had burners. The front ones could be turned up to a much higher flame - and would boil a pan of water much faster - than the back ones.
Fran
"On the front burner", "on the back burner", who started ... site mentioned that Kookie was responsible for popularizing the phrase.

I don't know anything about the show. Was Kookie a source of country-boy lore or something? Cooking on woodstoves is much more common in the country.

Nope. Kookie was the archetypal 'cool cat' and was in the show to add hip credentials by using modern slang and combing his hair alot. Hence the hit record 'Kookie Kookie lend me your comb'. Kookie was played by Edward Byrnes.

John Dean
Oxford
Just in case anyone is puzzled: in a woodburning cookstove ... we can just turn a knob to change the heat.

It never occurred to me that it might be a reference to wood or coal-burning stoves. My mother's gas cooker ... to a much higher flame - and would boil a pan of water much faster - than the back ones.

Ah. I should have hedged. The connection between the older stoves and the metaphor was purely my own assumption and not based on any references I found. So it's quite possibly wrong.
...I have now gone looking for an article on the basics of woodstove cooking to confirm that I'm not totally hallucinating.

http://wa.essortment.com/cookingonawoo rjju.htm
Cooking on a wood stove
Who can resist the honest goodness a stew simmering on the back of the stove..
The whole top of a wood cookstove becomes a cooking top, but the hottest part and the place where you will do most of your frying and boiling, is right over the firebox. Keep a close eye on food as the stove can be hotter than you think - or cooler. To adjust the rate of cooking, simply move the pan or pot to a cooler or hotter area.
Depending on how the dampers are set, the hottest spot can be in the center of the firebox, to the back, or near the area where the pipe is. Fire follows a draft, so the hottest part will be in the path of a draft.
...Use the back of the stove, on the corner farthest away from the firebox, just as you would a crockpot...
So, at one time, this would have been common knowledge. But if early gas/oil stoves were designed to do something similar, the same metaphor would apply.

Best Donna Richoux
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Kookie was played by Edward Byrnes.

Edd Byrnes. (Real name Edward Byrne Breitenberger).

Photo at http://home.att.net/~boomers.fifties.pinups/page15.html

More on the TV show at http://www.tvparty.com/77.html

John Varela
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"cooking with gas"

I believe that phrase originated as an advertising slogan by the natural gas industry. "Now you're cooking with gas!" Contemporary with "Quick, Henry! The FLIT!"

John Varela
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"On the front burner", "on the back burner", who started ... popularizing the phrase. Was it essentially unknown before beat times?

I'm not even familiar with any "on the front burner" expression, but ProQuest reveals that in 1944 "cooking on the ... the United States Army Air Force, calbes from somewhere in the Pacific, "Hello, am now cooking on the front burner"...

Here's what OED2 has (I'm sure OED3 will have antedatings):

cook, v.1

1. b. Slang phr. (or ,): to succeed, to do very well; to act or think correctly; also . U.S.
1941 Star (Kansas City) 23 Feb., Now you're cooking withelectricity!

1942 Time 27 Apr. 84/3 Many a student..figured that..Thurman Arnold was cooking with gas.

1945 L. SHELLY Jive Talk Dict. 23/1 Cooking on the frontburner, tops.

1946 F. WAKEMAN Hucksters (1947) xv. 201 Vic said, 'Goodboy, Georgie. Now you're cooking with radar.'

1958 N. D. HINTON in Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. XXX. 39Although 'cooking on the front burner' has long since gone out of style, some musicians still refer to New York as 'The Apple'.
(etc.)
I don't get "cooking with radar" was that just a facetious alternative to "gas" and "electricity"?
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